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Look up Sunday night for a rare "Super Blood Moon"

This Sept. 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows the moon, left, and the Earth, top, transiting the sun together, seen from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The edge of Earth appears fuzzy because the atmosphere blocks different amounts of light at different altitudes. This image was taken in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, invisible to human eyes, but here colorized in gold. A total lunar eclipse will share the stage with a so-called supermoon Sunday evening, Sept. 27, 2015 as seen from the United States. That combination hasn't been seen since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033. (NASA/SDO via AP)

This Sept. 13, 2015 image provided by NASA shows the moon, left, and the Earth, top, transiting the sun together, seen from the Solar Dynamics Observatory. The edge of Earth appears fuzzy because the atmosphere blocks different amounts of light at different altitudes. This image was taken in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths, invisible to human eyes, but here colorized in gold. A total lunar eclipse will share the stage with a so-called supermoon Sunday evening, Sept. 27, 2015 as seen from the United States. That combination hasn't been seen since 1982 and won't happen again until 2033. (NASA/SDO via AP)

The moon is getting a big star turn this weekend.

For the first time in more than 30 years, Americans will see a supermoon and the rare total lunar eclipse — also called the "blood moon" for its reddish color — on the same night.

The eclipse is Sunday, but the harvest moon will shine on Sunday and Monday. And it's not just any harvest moon (which earned its nickname because the strong light allowed farmers to work late into the night). It will be the biggest and closest supermoon of the year, appearing extra bright and large, according to NASA.

All of it combines to make Sunday's rare and dramatic "super blood moon" (NASA was using the hashtag #superbloodmoon Friday) because of the total lunar eclipse coinciding with the full moon. The last supermoon eclipse occurred in 1982, and the next won't take place until 2033, according to NASA.

But don't get too taken in by the dramatic language, said Craig Joseph, the planetarium director at St. Petersburg College, which is hosting free telescope viewings Sunday night.

"It's basically the moon being covered by the shadow of the Earth, so it's one big rock passing over another big rock," Joseph said.

And while it's called a "blood moon" it will more likely be a faint copper color.

"It's sort of like all the sunsets and sunrises occurring on Earth bathing the moon in a dim light," he said.

Long ago, the sight of the lunar eclipse frightened people, Joseph said, but the appearing shadow was also the reason we knew centuries ago that the Earth was round.

There are three full moons in 2015 that meet the definition of a supermoon — August, September and October. This week's full moon is the most super of the supermoons, a super-duper moon that will appear about 10 percent brighter and larger. (Note that the term "supermoon" didn't come from astronomers, but was coined by astrologer Richard Nolle in 1979 who said it causes "geophysical stress.")

The size and closeness of the moon should bring high tides, though nothing too severe. Despite the folklore, scientists say the effects of a supermoon are imperceptible to people, but that won't stop the speculation.

On Sunday the total lunar eclipse will be visible at 10:47 p.m. and the sun will be behind the Earth for 72 minutes, according to NASA. The harvest moon will continue to glow through Monday.

When it's not getting blocked out by the Earth's shadow, the supermoon is a good time to get a really good look at the moon's gray plains and white mountainous regions, which have been dubbed the "man in the moon." (Some say it looks like a rabbit.)

With the naked eye or a pair of binoculars, you can easily see the dark plains formed by lava, which bear fanciful names such as Ocean of Storms, Sea of Serenity, Sea of Rains and the Sea of Tranquility.

But for the first time in a long time, the lunar eclipse is happening at a more convenient time, Joseph said, instead of the middle of the night. And the next lunar eclipse visible from Florida won't come around until January 2019.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8595. Follow @SharonKWn.

'Blood moon' viewing

Telescope viewing: The St. Petersburg College Planetarium will have telescopes set up for public viewing Sunday night, weather permitting, from 9 to 11:30 p.m. The planetarium is in the Natural Science Building on the back side of the Gibbs campus, on 69th Street at Fifth Avenue N, St. Petersburg. For information about other free astronomy events, see

spcollege.edu/planetarium or call (727) 341-4320.

At home: You don't really need a telescope with a supermoon larger and brighter than usual, but a simple pair of binoculars can add details to your gazing. The lunar eclipse will begin around 10:47 p.m. Sunday and last for more than an hour. If the weather is clear, expect to see the curvature of the Earth's shadow on the moon and a copper-colored hue to the moon during the eclipse.

The weather: Hope for the best. Sunday's forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a 60 percent chance of rain.

Look up Sunday night for a rare "Super Blood Moon" 09/25/15 [Last modified: Friday, September 25, 2015 10:03pm]
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